There’s more to privacy than security, says Toronto professor

A new university program has been launched to address the need for a more holistic approach to privacy, identity and security management.

The Identity, Privacy and Security Initiative (IPSI) was created by the University of Toronto in the spring of 2007 to develop new approaches to security that maintain privacy, freedom and safety of the user and the broader community, according to IPSI’s management committee chair, Dimitrios Hatzinakos.

As a result of the initiative, the U. of T. has launched two new interdisciplinary masters level programs leading to either a Masters of Professional Engineering (M.Eng), or a Masters of Information Studies with concentration on security (MISt).

“Our objective is to basically provide a program which will integrate privacy, policy, security and science,” says Hatzinakos, who is also a professor with the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the U. of T.

“And the reason for that is because existing security professionals … have not been trained in this capacity. Most of them are self-trained after they joined companies, but they have never been trained to have a holistic understanding of security,” he says.

This sentiment was echoed in a release from Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian.

“In essence, the IPSI program will not only educate future generations on how to build privacy into technology, but it will also hopefully develop a culture of privacy – a way of thinking that is committed to better information management and the protection of privacy,” says Cavoukian.

“Even the most advanced technologies and the most rigorous privacy policies will not be wholly effective if organizations do not accept the protection of privacy as part of their institutional culture.”

There is recognition that security has become very important internationally, adds Hatzinakos, especially because of the advances in the Internet and the digital world, which have made it so easy to exchange information.

“With 9/11 and other relevant events, the issue of privacy has also become very important. We need to protect it and we need to make sure that we ensure safety and security without comprising privacy,” says Hatzinakos.

With the growing recognition of the importance of privacy and security, the need for internationally trained privacy and security professionals has also grown, notes the professor.

“What has been found is that the Canadian security industry has been one of the fastest [growing] industries in Canada.”

“Until now there hasn’t been a comprehensive effort to put a program like this together. We realized we could create a critical mass by putting together expertise, and making a difference. We will give students the best possible security training you can provide.”

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